THE tropical fruits of North Queensland may soon be enjoyed abroad amid opportunities to increase exports of banana, mango and melon to nearby Asian nations.
A recent Australian Tropical Fruit Export Strategies 2023 report identifies premium Australian banana products as one fruit that could prove successful overseas.
Hort Innovation funded the study and chief executive John Lloyd said researchers had been working with industry the six months to develop tropical export fruit strategies.
“Many Australian tropical fruit varieties undergo little to no export activity currently, so through the development of these strategies we are really breaking new ground,” Mr Lloyd said.
“In relation to bananas, research has found that Australian bananas cannot compete just on price due to higher labour and freight costs than our competitors, which are mostly developing countries.
“However, there is an opportunity to market niche high-end products, highlighting strengths such as our environmentally sustainable production systems and the rich taste and colour that make Aussie bananas unique.”
Banana fruit exports in 2016/17 accounted for just 0.04 per cent of Australia’s total production, but the strategy notes that differentiated and niche products could potentially find a place in markets such as Japan, China, Singapore, New Zealand and Qatar.
Frank and Dianne Sciacca, who operate Pacific Coast Eco Bananas at Boogan near Innisfail, are one of the few Aussie banana growers who currently export.
They have been supplying their organic produce to a niche market in Hong Kong since 2009.
“We’ve been looking for like-minded eco-friendly growers who could join us to supply larger markets there,” Mrs Sciacca said.
“We’re looking to supply a consumer who wants to have their food grown a different way.”
She said exporting was important as part of their overall business strategy.
“However, growers need to realise that export relationships take longer to mature, doing business is different and there are more layers in the supply chain – so it is no short term fix.
“That aside, there are opportunities worth pursuing to achieve growth.”
It comes after the Queensland Government issued the first round of funding under a new $1.3 million Growing Queensland’s Food Exports program.
Among the successful applicants was mango growers Manbulloo Limited, which has five farms in Far North Queensland and one in the Northern Territory and the Burdekin’s VFPlus Pty Ltd melons.
Manbulloo is looking to capitalise on new opportunities to expand its mango exports from North Queensland to Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Singapore.
Burdekin’s VFPlus Pty Ltd is developing exports of high-quality melons out of North Queensland to Japan and Singapore.
Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said a total of six food companies had received first round funding from the Growing Queensland’s Food Exports program.
“From macadamias, mangoes and melons, to strawberries, sweet corn and pork – the producers selected for grants are either already exporting or are ready to export and seeking to access overseas markets,” he said.
“By providing funding of up to $100,000, we’re assisting these food companies to build their business capability to take advantage of opportunities to grow exports.
“The Palaszczuk Government is committed to increasing the Queensland’s exports to 22 per cent of the national total and these grants are part of the commitment to deliver more jobs and strong economic growth in regional areas.”